New York: Statue of Liberty, a veritable symbol of America, was reopened to the public for the first time since superstorm Sandy hit the island last year.
The reopening of Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island`s reopening came up on the occasion of the nation`s Independence Day, as the cultural icon saw its restoration in less than nine months after nature ravaged the city on October 29 last.
The opening ceremony had its dose of patriotic fanfare including a marching band clad in Revolutionary War replica uniforms.
"The statue was at the heart of what America is really all about," City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on the occasion.
"Thank God we have people like the French," Bloomberg said.
The `Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World` was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the US, and is a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.
The statue draws as many as four million visitors a year from all over the world and it`s a must-see tourist destination for any visitor to the US, particularly New York.
The monument was dedicated on October 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924 and restored for her centennial on July 04, 1986.
US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, US Senator Robert Menendez, National Park Service Director Jonathan B Jarvis, and other dignitaries were also present at the ceremony and ribbon cutting on Liberty Island.
Designed by French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, with internal structural elements engineered by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the statue stands on a 12-acre island atop the former Fort Wood.
Sheets of pure copper hang on a framework of steel 151 feet and one inch high. The pedestal and foundation add another 154 feet.
Nearly 12 million immigrants passed through the former arrival station between 1892 and 1954.
The storm left three-quarters of Liberty Island inundated destroying electrical, phone and water and sewage systems. Ironically, hurricane Sandy struck just a day after the statue had reopened following a yearlong renovation.
Also September 11 terrorist attacks kept visitors away for nearly nine years.
The statue was spared in the fall storm, but Lady Liberty`s island took a serious beating. Railings broke, docks and paving stones were torn up and buildings were flooded.
Some repairs to brick walkways and docks are now being carried out though it was opened to the public but much of work has been completed since Sandy swamped most of the 12 acres of the national landmark.
The storm destroyed electrical systems, sewage pumps and boilers. More than 175 National Park Service workers from as far as California and Alaska spent weeks cleaning mud and debris.
National Park Service officials said that they hoped that yesterday`s reopening - the statue`s fourth since 1986 - would be its last for now.
The renovation was done at a cost of USD 77 million.
"I`m getting a little sick and tired of opening and closing the Statue of Liberty," said Dave Luchsinger, the Statue of Liberty National Monument`s superintendent.
"This time, I think we`ll just leave it open. It`s perfect timing for it to reopen. It`s really a symbol for what the country is all about".
Bloomberg also took the chance to make some pointed comments about climate change, which he said was at the root of increasingly volatile weather conditions across the country and, possibly, major events like Sandy.
"Having an argument about climate change is myopic. The bottom line is that we have to prepare for the future," Bloomberg said.